Tanizaki Jun’ichirō (1886-1965) By Jortner, David
Tanizaki Jun’ichirō (1886-1965) was a leading novelist, playwright and theorist of the Taishō and Shōwa eras. Although best known as a novelist, Tanizaki’s plays also reflected his literary concerns with eroticism, aestheticism, and decadence.
Tanizaki Jun’ichirō was born in Tokyo to a middle-class family. Tanizaki mentions having had a privileged childhood; his parents often took him to the theatre and exposed the author to the traditional Japanese arts. However, numerous business reversals resulted in a decline of the family’s fortune; Tanizaki had to abandon his studies at the University of Tokyo in 1911 for a lack of money.
Tanizaki began writing while still a student at the University of Tokyo, publishing his first play in a literary magazine in 1909. He continued to write short stories, plays and novels throughout the 1910s and early 1920s. In 1923 Tanizaki’s house in Yokohama was destroyed by the great Kantō earthquake; he subsequently moved to the Osaka area. His work changed at this time as he became less interested in issues of modernity and the West and more involved with Japanese aesthetics and tradition. Tanizaki continued to write until 1943, when the serialization of his novel Sasemeyuki (The Makioka Sisters, 1943-1948) was stopped by the militarist government.